Leaving Earth cover

In March I obtained from my former publisher the last 30 copies of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. I quickly sold 10, and with only 20 left in stock I am raising the price. To get your own autographed copy of this rare collector's item please send a $75 check (includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to
 

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652
 

I will likely raise the price again when only ten books are left, so buy them now at this price while you still can!


  Also available as an inexpensive ebook!
 

Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, is now available as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 


Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Vera Lynn – The White Cliffs Of Dover & We’ll Meet Again

An evening pause: Performed live in 1984 to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of D-Day. Both songs were British hits during World War II, illustrating that generation’s cheerful determination to keep calm and carry on. It seems fitting to show them again today, the day before the D-Day anniversary.

Hat tip Tom Biggar, who notes that Vera Lynn is still alive, 103 years young.

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Bennu’s forbidding gravelly surface

Gravelly Osprey landing site on Bennu
Click for a higher resolution version.

On May 26 the OSIRIS-REx science team completed their first rehearsal and close approach to their back-up sample-grab-and-go site on Bennu, dubbed Osprey, getting as close as 820 feet. The image to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, shows that sample site within the white box. According to the image caption, the “long, light-colored boulder to the left of the dark patch, named Strix Saxum, is 17 ft (5.2 m) in length.” Note also that they have rotated the image so that east is at the top in order to make it more easily viewed.

This particular spot in this crater is actually a revision from their first choice from early in 2019, which originally was to the right and below the dark patch in the center of the crater. After six months of study, they decided instead on the present target area above the dark patch, because it seemed safer with the most sampleable material.

So how safe is this new location? Let’s take a closer look.
» Read more

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Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 
The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

An exposed dry waterfall on Mars

An exposed dry waterfall on Mars
Click for full image.

Close overview map

Wide overview map

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on April 30, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Uncaptioned, the science team titled the release as a “Cataract in Osuga Valles.”

To understand what we are looking at it is necessary to also see a wider view, as provided by the context map below and to the right. As you can see, this image straddles across the canyon called Osuga Valles, and heads downstream to the east. It also shows a point where the grade of that canyon suddenly drops. If water ever flowed here this place would have been the location of a truly spectacular waterfall.

More likely, these cataracts mark the location where sometime in the past a glacier had flowed down this valley, cutting a path until it broke out into the large and wide dead end area that appears to have no clear outlet. For some reason at this point the downhill grade of this canyon suddenly dropped, with the glacier following that sudden steep drop.

There is no glaciers here now, as this location is at 14 degrees south latitude, too close to the equator for any ice to remain close to the surface. Instead, dust dunes remain as the only feature flowing down through these cataracts.

The second overview map provides further context, showing the location of Osuga Valles relative to nearby Valles Marineris, the largest known canyon system in the solar system. Whatever process formed that gigantic canyon system certainly was a factor in forming Osuga Valles. The details however are not yet understood with any certainty. All we presently have are theories.

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Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

InSight mole team reports some digging success

InSight scoop pushing against mole as it digs
Click to watch movie.

A new strategy devised in February to use the scoop on the Mars InSight lander to push down on the mole digging tool so that it could gain traction and dig downward has apparently had some success.

We started about seven centimetres above the surface on Sol 458 (11 March) and we are now at the surface with the scoop on Sol 536 (30 May 30), after six cycles of hammering over 11 weeks.

If you click on the image on the right you can see a movie assembled from images taken since February as they pushed down. The mole has clearly descended into the Martian soil about seven centimeters, or about three inches. The issue now, as shown in the movie, is that the mole is now deep enough that the scoop is pressed against the ground. It can’t really push down anymore on the mole, at least in this configuration.

They have the option of using the scoop’s tip to push farther into the ground, but that involves some risk. First they plan to let the mole continue to dig, without the scoop’s help, in the hope that it is now finally deep enough into the ground that the ground is finally able to provide the friction required to hold the mole in place. If this doesn’t work, they will then try using the scoop to fill the hole up to provide more friction.

If that doesn’t work, they will then try using the scoop tip to provide the added pressure.

All in all, it does appear there is now hope that the mole will eventually get the heat sensor for measuring the internal temperatue on Mars deep enough to do its primary mission. Stay tuned!

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Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


 

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If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
 
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Rethinking the theories that explain some supernovae

The uncertainty of science: New data now suggests that the previous consensus among astronomers that type Ia supernovae were caused by the interaction of a large red giant star with a white dwarf might be wrong, and that instead the explosion might be triggered by two white dwarfs.

If this new origin theory turns out to be correct, then it might also throw a big wrench into the theory of dark energy.

The evidence that twin white dwarfs drive most, if not all, type Ia supernovae, which account for about 20% of the supernova blasts in the Milky Way, “is more and more overwhelming,” says Dan Maoz, director of Tel Aviv University’s Wise Observatory, which tracks fast-changing phenomena such as supernovae. He says the classic scenario of a white dwarf paired with a large star such as a red giant “doesn’t happen in nature, or quite rarely.”

Which picture prevails has impacts across astronomy: Type Ia supernovae play a vital role in cosmic chemical manufacturing, forging in their fireballs most of the iron and other metals that pervade the universe. The explosions also serve as “standard candles,” assumed to shine with a predictable brightness. Their brightness as seen from Earth provides a cosmic yardstick, used among other things to discover “dark energy,” the unknown force that is accelerating the expansion of the universe. If type Ia supernovae originate as paired white dwarfs, their brightness might not be as consistent as was thought—and they might be less reliable as standard candles.

If type Ia supernovae are not reliable standard candles, then the entire Nobel Prize results that discovered dark energy in the late 1990s are junk, the evidence used to discover it simply unreliable. Dark energy might simply not exist.

What galls me about this possibility is that it was always the case. The certainty in the 1990s about using type Ia supernovae as a standard candle to determine distance was entirely unjustified. Even now astronomers do not really know what causes these explosions. To even consider them to always exhibit the same energy release was just not reasonable.

And yet astronomers in the 1990s did, and thus they fostered the theory of dark energy upon us — that the universe’s expansion was accelerating over vast distances — while winning Nobel Prizes. They still might be right, and dark energy might exist, but it was never very certain, and still is not.

Much of the fault in this does not lie with the astronomers, but with the press, which always likes to sell new theories as a certainty, scoffing over the doubts and areas of ignorance that make the theories questionable. This is just one more example of this, of which I can cite many examples, the worst of all being the reporting about global warming.

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Exoplanet in Earth-like orbit circling Sun-type star

Worlds without end: Astronomers have found evidence suggesting the existence of an exoplanet about twice as massive as the Earth and orbiting a solar-twin star in an orbit almost the same as the Earth’s.

The star, Kepler-160, is about 3,000 light years away, and had previously discovered to have two exoplanets.

“Our analysis suggests that Kepler-160 is orbited not by two but by a total of four planets,” Heller summarizes the new study. One of the two planets that Heller and his colleagues found is Kepler-160d, the previously suspected planet responsible for the distorted orbit of Kepler-160c. Kepler-160d does not show any transits in the light curve of the star and so it has been confirmed indirectly. The other planet, formally a planet candidate, is KOI-456.04, probably a transiting planet with a radius of 1.9 Earth radii and an orbital period of 378 days. Given its Sun-like host star, the very Earth-like orbital period results in a very Earth-like insolation from the star – both in terms of the amount of the light received and in terms of the light color. Light from Kepler-160 is visible light very much like sunlight. All things considered, KOI-456.04 sits in a region of the stellar habitable zone – the distance range around a star admitting liquid surface water on an Earth-like planet – that is comparable to the Earth’s position around the Sun.

“KOI-456.01 is relatively large compared to many other planets that are considered potentially habitable. But it’s the combination of this less-than-double the size of the Earth planet and its solar type host star that make it so special and familiar,” Heller clarifies. As a consequence, the surface conditions on KOI-456.04 could be similar to those known on Earth, provided its atmosphere is not too massive and non-Earth-like. The amount of light received from its host star is about 93 percent of the sunlight received on Earth. If KOI-456.04 has a mostly inert atmosphere with a mild Earth-like greenhouse effect, then its surface temperature would be +5 degrees Celsius on average, which is about ten degrees lower than the Earth’s mean global temperature.

These results have many uncertainties, so we should not be surprised if further research produces significant revisions in these conclusions. Nonetheless, the number of Earth-like planets orbiting Sun-like stars in orbits like the Earth’s continues to rise.

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A detailed update on SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation

Link here. With yesterday’s launch, SpaceX now has put 420 satellites in orbit.

In a recent interview with Aviation Week, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that they should begin beta testing the network this year and would want to complete around 14 launches before publicly promoting Starlink service. That could allow service to begin as soon as early 2021 depending on how fast launches can be performed.

In a recent ITU filing, SpaceX laid out a very aggressive schedule for continuing the Starlink deployment, with 13 launches in the May to September time period. This schedule is likely to spread out a bit as they run into normal launch cadence issues such as weather, range coordination, booster recovery operations, and booster refurbishment.

The first launch in that group (June 3 in Florida) has been delayed nearly a month for the above reasons. Regardless of exactly how long those launches end up taking, Ms. Shotwell’s comments indicate SpaceX doesn’t think satellite production will be a gating factor for their deployments in the near future.

An interesting feature of the schedule is that after this frenzy of launches, there would be a gap with only one launch in four months, followed by a period of twice-monthly launches to finish out the initial 1584 satellite shell of the constellation. SpaceX may have options to make changes to the satellites during that pause in the deployments, such as adding the optical inter-satellite links that have been mentioned as debuting later in 2020.

The article then provides a great deal of information about the system’s design and status for beginning operations in the U.S. Well worth a close read.

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ArianeGroup developing new rocket engine

Capitalism in space: The private company ArianeGroup has now gotten the okay from the European Space Agency (ESA) to begin full development of its new Prometheus rocket engine, intended to reduce costs 10x.

By applying a design-to-cost approach to manufacturing Prometheus, ESA aims to lower the cost of production by a factor of ten of the current main stage Ariane 5 Vulcain 2 engine. Features such as variable thrust, multiple ignitions, suitability for main and upper stage application, and minimised ground operations before and after flight also make Prometheus a highly flexible engine.

This Prometheus precursor runs on liquid oxygen–methane which brings high efficiency, allows standardisation and operational simplicity. Methane propellant is also widely available and easy to handle.

Essentially, ArianeGroup is going to try to build its own methane-powered rocket engine, having seen the success that SpaceX has so far had with its own Raptor methane engine. This also signals an increased recognition at ESA and ArianeGroup that their new Ariane-6 rocket, whose first launch is still about a year away, is not going to be competitive with SpaceX’s offerings, and needs to be upgraded or replaced.

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American Kristallnacht

It might have been an accident, or maybe it was because of the events of the past three months, but earlier this year I decided to finally read William Shirer’s masterpiece, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Previously I had only read the first few chapters in order to learn something about Hitler’s background. Now it was time to read the whole book.

I am only halfway through it but no matter. Every page has sent terror through my soul, as it appears to not be a history of the 1930s foolishness and madness that allowed a megalomaniac to become the leader of a powerful nation, intent on conquering the world while committing genocide against millions, but a news report of modern America.

What we have seen for the past three months — accelerated to madness with riots this week — has been nothing more than a return to the Nazi tactics of the 1930s, with the only difference being that the targets have not been just Jews, but all private businesses as well as anyone who dares to oppose their wanton destruction. In fact, the use of rocks to break windows and loot businesses and attack and even kill their owners this week was so reminiscent of Kristallnacht that I find it more than horrifying. From the link:
» Read more

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Live feed of tonight’s SpaceX Falcon 9 Starlink launch

UPDATE: A successfully launch, with a successful landing of the first stage, the fifth time this particular stage has completed a mission.

10 China
8 SpaceX
7 Russia
3 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 13 to 10 in the national rankings.

Original post:
——————————
Since there was such a positive response to the embedded live feed of SpaceX’s first manned Dragon launch a few days go, I’ve decided to embed below the live feed of their next launch tonight of 60 Starlink satellites. The launch is set for 9:25 pm (Eastern), with the live feed starting fifteen minutes before that.

Enjoy. Watching that first stage land never gets old.

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The coming death of America

I have been so appalled and horrified by the events of the past three months, culminating in the riots and brutal violence and looting this past week, that I have found myself unable to express myself. I stand for freedom, for justice, for equal protection under law, and for our Constitution and Bill of Rights, fundamental documents that more than any philosophical tract ever written outline the most just way to run a country.

That country however appears to be dying, fast. It strongly appears that a large plurality, maybe even a majority, no longer believes in these ideals. This fact has made me depressed beyond words.

The speech below by Tucker Carlson however does a very good job of summing things up, based on facts, while making it clear what we must do to change this madness. He pulls no punches. He attacks every politician from both parties who have stood by or even supported the rioting and the nullification of our most basic laws. He demands better from them, and he demands that we, the citizenry, demand it as well.

I beg my readers to watch it. Set the speed at 1.25 and you can see it faster.

I also pray that some of my readers, after watching it, will recognize how deadly the situation really is, far beyond rioting, and how necessary it is for us to require proper behavior from our leaders, without exception, based on law and justice. No more race-baiting. No more apologies for enforcing the law meant to protect the innocent. No more cowardice. If our political leaders can’t protect everyone, then they must be fired. All of them.

And if we, the American people, still fail to recognize how bad things are and refuse to do something about it, then my headline above will simply be an accurate prediction. I weep to think I might be right.

I must also add that to understand what I mean, you must watch Carlson’s speech first. Otherwise, you will be doing exactly what I rage against.

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Forty Fingers – Bohemian Rhapsody

An evening pause: This is really badly filmed, with the camera constantly moving in a very distracting way, never stopping to actually let you watch them play. Very annoying.

However, the music is still magnificent, and the guitar arrangement is brilliant. Turn it on and listen as you do something else. You’ll enjoy it more.

Hat tip John Jossy.

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The strange squashed ridges at the basement of Mars

Squashed ridges at the basement of Mars
Click for full image.

Overview map

Cool image time! The photo on the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on April 9, 2020, and shows the very weird and very packed ridges and layers that are found routinely at the deepest part of Hellas Basin, what I have dubbed the basement of Mars.

Be sure to click on the image to see the full photograph. There’s lots more strangeness to see there. And be sure to read my post in the second link, which highlights a similarly strange set of packed ridges, and where I note:

This is the basement of Mars, what could be called its own Death Valley. The difference however is that unlike Death Valley, conditions here could be more amendable to life, as the lower elevation means the atmosphere is thicker.

The context map to the right shows Hellas, with the location of today’s image indicated by the white box, close to basin’s lowest point, more than five miles below the basin’s rim. Overall the Hellas Basin is about the size of the western United States, from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. It is believed that the entire basin was created by a single gigantic impact that occurred about four billion years ago when the solar system’s inner planets were undergoing what has been labeled the Late Heavy Bombardment.

The specific process that formed these ridges, dubbed honeycomb terrain by scientists, remains unknown however. There are of course theories, none of which are very convincing. Here’s mine, as outlined in the previous post:
» Read more

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New proposal to end the “qualifified immunity” held by police

Justin Amash, former Republican and almost certainly to be out of Congress after the 2020 elections, has proposed a law that would eliminate the “qualified immunity” that police presently enjoy that prevents anyone from suing them personally for any egregious acts they commit.

U.S. Representative Justin Amash, a former Republican turned Libertarian, won support from a Minneapolis Democrat on Monday for his “Ending Qualified Immunity Act,” which would allow civil lawsuits against police, a recourse that the Supreme Court has all but done away with.

The high court’s adoption of the qualified immunity doctrine has largely shielded police from financial settlements for victims or grieving families. The doctrine protects cops even when courts determine that officers violate civil rights

As my wife Diane so eloquently notes, two things protect the police when they commit crimes, this qualified immunity and their police unions. If we want police to start behaving properly, we need to eliminate both. This law at least addresses the former.

Sadly, the bill probably stands little change of passage, mostly because of the Congressman proposing it. Amash used to be part of the very conservative Republican Freedom Caucus in the House. He then became a NeverTrumper willing to abandon all his principles (and his party) while sticking a knife in the backs of his former allies. This is why he is no longer a Republican, and why he almost certainly will be dumped come the 2020 elections.

No matter how wise his proposal might be, he has burned all the bridges he once had for getting any support. While he might get some in the Democratic Party to back him, most will turn their noses up at him because he is a former Republican. And the Republicans now want nothing to do with him.

This bill will unfortunately die, even though it is actually targeting very precisely one of the main causes of most police abuse. Such rationality is no longer given much play in our society. Instead, everyone else seems more interested in spouting hate and anger and rioting and destroying the lives of innocent people, out of blind emotional rage.

Such is a response now to the horrible murder by police of George Floyd. And it really is no different than the insane response to COVID-19: Rather than focusing rationally on the actual problem, our leaders — egged on by too many in the general population — instead focus on blaming and oppressing the wrong people.

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Second exoplanet confirmed orbiting Proxima Centauri

Worlds without end: Using archived Hubble data, astronomers have now independently confirmed the existence of a second exoplanet orbiting the nearest star, Proxima Centauri.

Dubbed Proxima c, this is not the same Earth-sized exoplanet confirmed to orbit the star last week. That planet, Proxima b, orbits close to the star every 11.2 days. The new planet is much farther out.

Benedict found a planet with an orbital period of about 1,907 days buried in the 25-year-old Hubble data. This was an independent confirmation of the existence of Proxima Centauri c.

Shortly afterward, a team led by Raffaele Gratton of INAF published images of the planet at several points along its orbit that they had made with the SPHERE instrument on the Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Benedict then combined the findings of all three studies: his own Hubble astrometry, Damasso’s radial velocity studies, and Gratton’s images to greatly refine the mass of Proxima Centauri c. He found that the planet is about 7 times as massive as Earth.

Though I am unaware of any hints of additional planets orbiting Proxima Centauri, the presence of two strongly implies the likelihood of more.

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Smallest satellite yet detects exoplanet

The smallest satellite yet, a cubesat, has demonstrated the potential of cubesats to do real cutting edge astronomy by successfully detected a known exoplanet.

Long before it was deployed into low-Earth orbit from the International Space Station in Nov. 2017, the tiny ASTERIA spacecraft had a big goal: to prove that a satellite roughly the size of a briefcase could perform some of the complex tasks much larger space observatories use to study exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. A new paper soon to be published in the Astronomical Journal describes how ASTERIA (short for Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics) didn’t just demonstrate it could perform those tasks but went above and beyond, detecting the known exoplanet 55 Cancri e.

Scorching hot and about twice the size of Earth, 55 Cancri e orbits extremely close to its Sun-like parent star. Scientists already knew the planet’s location; looking for it was a way to test ASTERIA’s capabilities. The tiny spacecraft wasn’t initially designed to perform science; rather, as a technology demonstration, the mission’s goal was to develop new capabilities for future missions. The team’s technological leap was to build a small spacecraft that could conduct fine pointing control – essentially the ability to stay very steadily focused on an object for long periods.

…The CubeSat used fine pointing control to detect 55 Cancri e via the transit method, in which scientists look for dips in the brightness of a star caused by a passing planet. When making exoplanet detections this way, a spacecraft’s own movements or vibrations can produce jiggles in the data that could be misinterpreted as changes in the star’s brightness. The spacecraft needs to stay steady and keep the star centered in its field of view. This allows scientists to accurately measure the star’s brightness and identify the tiny changes that indicate the planet has passed in front of it, blocking some of its light.

This success is mostly a proof of concept, but it lays the groundwork for less expensive future space astronomy, using low cost cubesats capable of doing what the expensive orbiting space telescopes have done so far.

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Musk confirms cause of most recent Starship prototype failure

Capitalism in space: During a press event following the successful launch of SpaceX’s first manned Dragon, Elon Musk confirmed that the cause of the most recent Starship prototype failure was a leak at the connection point, called a quick disconnect or QD, for one of the umbilical cords that fuel the spacecraft.

If so, this cause is generally good engineering news, as it indicates the problem was not related to the prototype itself but with equipment that is more easily fixed. The article at the link notes:

Given that Starships are currently being tested independently on spartan launch mounts, it’s unclear if the current generation of prototypes has been outfitted with advanced QD panels. More likely, Musk was referring to a test of a less advanced QD panel similar to the rough version used on Starhopper last year, and SpaceX simply wanted to test its ability to disconnect and reconnect to Starship on command.

The explosion itself had not only completely destroyed the prototype, it rendered the test stand unusable. Yet, as another demonstration of SpaceX’s agility and competence as a company, the test stand was “fully dismantled and scrapped in the two days since the anomaly.”

Two days! More important, the fifth prototype is ready to go, with a sixth almost finished. They expect to resume tests before the end of the month.

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Thar’s ice in them Martian hills!

Icy mountains in Erebus Montes?
Click for full image.

Overview map of Starship landing site images

Cool image time! Today we return to the Erebus Mountains, located just to the west of SpaceX’s prime candidate landing site for Starship on Mars. The photo to the right, taken on April 4, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, shows one particular area between the peaks in those mountains, and also happens to be very close to what I have labeled image #1 in SpaceX’s Starship landing site photos.

The second image below and to the right shows an overview map of this region, with the SpaceX photos indicated by the numbered white boxes and the location of this image indicated by the red box, right next to image #1. The black boxes were images that SpaceX had obtained from MRO earlier, when it was first planning to send a Dragon capsule to Mars using a Falcon Heavy, a project the company has put aside in its focus on building Starship.

To my eye, everything in the first image above reeks of an icy, glacial terrain. I certainly am guessing, but it is an educated guess based on looking at numerous similar images in this region (see here and here, ) as well as in the nearby Phlegra mountains to the west. I also base my guess on what I have learned interviewing planetary scientists who are studying these images. The reasonableness of this guess is further strengthened in that the location is at 39 degrees north latitude, dead center in the mid-latitude bands where scientists have found evidence of numerous buried glaciers.

If Starship lands just to the east of the Erebus Mountains, the first colonists will likely not only have water available at their feet close to the surface in the flat lowland plains, if they find that resource insufficient they will need only climb uphill a bit into these hills to dig out as much ice as they could ever need.

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China’s Long March 2D launches Earth observation satellite

The new colonial movement: China’s Long March 2D rocket today launched an Earth observation satellite, described as designed to study Earth resources.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

10 China
7 Russia
7 SpaceX
3 ULA

The U.S. still leads China 12 to 10 in the national rankings.

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Dragon docks with ISS; astronauts reveal its name is Endeavour

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s first manned Dragon capsule successfully docked today with ISS.

A few hours after launch the two American astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, also revealed that they had named the capsule “Endeavour.”

I know this is really old news from late last night and early this morning, but I was out on a cave trip (taking a work break to have some fun underground for the first time in three months). I post it for completion. I also know that the live stream of these events was active here all day for my readers to follow things, as they happened.

Prepare for even more increasing space excitement in the coming years. The Trump administration increasingly is shifting NASA’s gears to have private companies build its spaceships and rockets and science instruments. The more they do this, the less expensive and the more capabilities we shall have as a nation. This success will be a challenge for other nations to match, which in turn will raise the stakes and increase the competition, the excitement, and the action in space.

Yes, the 20s I hope are going to roar, at least in space.

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Another coup leader at the FBI forced to resign

More house-cleaning at the FBI: The FBI’s general counsel, Dana Boente, yesterday resigned as demanded by William Barr, the attorney general of the Justice Department, apparently due to his participation in the effort to frame former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Boente signed one of the warrants renewing the FBI’s authority to surveil Flynn. The warrants, known as FISA warrants, were renewed several times and had to be approved by a judge.

Boente also said in a recently leaked memo that material put into the public record about Flynn was not exculpatory for the former national security advisor. The memo undermines the Justice Department’s latest position that material about Flynn was mishandled by prosecutors.

The article is from NBC, so it exudes both ignorance and hostility about this resignation. The FISA warrants that Boente signed have been repeatedly proven to have been falsely obtained, dependent on unverified and outright false and fake information. His actions clearly showed he was part of the coup attempt in the FBI attempting to find by any means necessary a way to overthrown the legal election of Donald Trump. Framing Flynn was only one part of that effort.

We’ve only just begun. There are a lot of people still working at both the FBI, the Justice Department, and throughout the executive branch, who have been willing to violate the Constitution and some fundamental laws, all because they did not like how the American people voted in 2016. They all need to be shown the door, with many escorted next to a prison cell.

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SpaceX’s first manned SUCCESSFUL Dragon launch

UPDATE: I am off on a caving trip on Sunday, May 31st, so I will not be doing any updates to this post. The live feeds however will still be here and, though they are presently showing a replay of the launch today, should be covering Dragon’s rendezvous and docking with ISS on Sunday..

UPDATE: Dragon is in orbit. SpaceX has successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to place to Americans into space, the first American launch from American soil in an American spacecraft on an American rocket in nine years.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

9 China
7 Russia
7 SpaceX
3 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 12 to 9 in the national rankings.

UPDATE: I have added NASA’s media live feed to the one provided on SpaceX’s website. There will be some hype on SpaceX’s feed, but the media feed had no commentary. Pick which you prefer.

UPDATE: NASA and SpaceX have decided to attempt a launch today. The weather remains at 50-50 for launch.

Capitalism in space: Below are the live streams of SpaceX’s first manned Dragon launch, presently scheduled for launch at 3:22 pm (Eastern) tomorrow, May 30, 2020.

First, the feed from SpaceX’s website:

Second, the media feed from NASA, with no narration:

The live coverage will begin at 11 am (Eastern), and because this presentation is a partnership of NASA and SpaceX, will be filled with a lot of hype that one normally does not see during a SpaceX live feed, though I will note that during the live feed of the May 27th scrubbed launch, the NASA hype was kept relatively tame, compared to previous events. It seemed they accepted some guidance from SpaceX on how to do this in a way that seemed less fake or propagandistic.

This time I am embedding the media feed, which might have even less hype.

This post is also set to remain at the top of the page until after the launch, or after the launch is scrubbed, whichever happens. At the moment the weather says there is a 50-50 chance of launching, so we might end up having a scrub again, like on May 27th. In fact, NASA and SpaceX have already said in the evening of May 29th that they will reassess the weather in the AM on May 30th and decide whether to continue with the countdown or scrub. If so, this link and live feed will remain for the Sunday, May 31st, launch attempt.

As I did during the first launch attempt on May 27th, I will also periodically post below the fold images captured from the live feed, with some commentary. Comments from readers are of course welcome, as always.

NOTE: You will need to refresh the post periodically to see new images and commentary.

For other news updates, scroll down.
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“The Trump-Russia investigation was a politically driven fraud”

The first two paragraphs of this summing up of what we now know of the corrupt attempt to overthrow the legal election of an American president by the FBI and the Department of Justice, instigated by the Obama administration and continuing during the first two years of the Trump administration says it all, quite succinctly:

No need to build to a crescendo — let’s just say it: The Trump-Russia investigation was a politically driven fraud from beginning to end. It was opened on false pretenses, sustained by investigative abuses, and will undoubtedly end in recriminatory angst, which is what happens when the kind of accountability the victims demand does not, indeed cannot, come to pass.

Worst of all is the damage wrought, though even that isn’t fully understood. Obama administration officials exploited the awesome national security powers that we trust our government to use for counterintelligence operations that safeguard America from jihadists and other foreign hostiles. Because of the abuse, and the growing awareness that few of the abusers will be held to meaningful account, those powers have lost the solid constituency they had maintained in Congress for nearly two decades. Thus, this episode will prove to be a catastrophe for American national security.

Make sure you read it all, carefully. Andrew McCarthy outlines a truly illegal power-grab by Washington insiders, who did not want power transferred to an outsider who did not share their goals and political beliefs but who the American people had legally elected. And they were willing to toss out the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and all previous legal precedent and history to overthrow that outsider.

These crooks should all find themselves behind bars for many years. That they likely will not tells us that we are in for some very perilous times. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were specifically written to protect us, the ordinary citizen, from abuses of power by corrupt power-hungry people like this. If we are no longer honoring these documents we ordinary citizens cannot expect much justice in the coming years.

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